Perhaps more than any other sport scholastic volleyball depends on total team play. All the athleticism and individual effort become lost without the requisite team chemistry. As evidenced by their advancing to the state playoffs, this years’ Council Rock North squad was rich in this all-important area.
Mary Baniewics, junior outside hitter, summed up this season’s Indian success, saying. “We have a specific person for every position which is great. However, even if you have a person for every position a team needs something else to click. We hang out on the weekends all the time and most importantly we build a connection. We trust each other and we don’t yell at each other.”
The Indians fit perfectly with Mary’s sincere love of her sport. “I love it. It’s a sport that is different from any other. You have to have a lot of teamwork and communication. It’s not all one person. You have to be based on other people which I like. The intensity is fun. The way you play is unique.”
Part of the unity comes from learning the game’s complexities. Based on a lot of intricate passes, fakes and maneuvers, volleyball goes well beyond just slamming the ball over the net. “A lot of people think it is just a pass, set and hit game but there’s so much more to it. It’s very complex and you have to practice to get better. It’s not something you just do.”
Mary first entered the volleyball arena in sixth grade. “I began playing for the Princeton Volleyball Club. My neighbors were the Adams and I got really close to them and they convinced me to play. Also, my brother played for Council Rock.”
Those early beginnings have led to a very successful career. In only her sophomore year, Mary earned first team All-National Conference recognition. Despite this high honor, she still felt parts of her game need improving. “The toughest part for me is definitely diving. I’m on the taller side and I play back row so staying low for me is a little difficult. I got better at the end of the season but at the beginning I was not very good. My teammates helped me and told me what I should do better.”
One thing Mary did not need help with was knowing her position’s responsibility. “I’m an outside hitter and I play all around for all six rotations. In the front row I hit and try to get a kill. But it depends on the set and we have a good setter in Kylie Tinner. In the back row I’m in charge of digging. I get the seam stuff that the libero and center don’t pick up.”
Mary’s efforts certainly proved crucial as the Indians moved through the regular season. They recorded an impressive 16-2 record, losing only to the conference champ Pennsbury. “They are our biggest rivals and I always get nervous before those games. In our first game we played them we won the first two sets and then lost the last three. We had the potential to beat them but we got too excited and in the last two sets we kind of lost it. Our energy died down. In our second match we played down a level.”
The Indians overall success in the regular season earned them a seventh seed in the PIAA District One tourney. Mary felt her team was ready. “We were more passionate because we were getting farther than before. We were obviously passionate during the season but districts and states were a big deal. I feel we had a bit more energy and a bit more enthusiasm to win.”
The extra zeal certainly manifest itself in the opening round against Garnett Valley. The Indians captured that three games to none. “Garnett Valley was one of my best games. My teammates really got more excited for that game. I wanted to play the best I could because it was our first playoff game.”
Mary certainly had a great game, recording 19 kills, 2 blocks and 1 ace. Her effort helped set up a second-round encounter with Unionville. Unfortunately, the Indians lost 3-0. “I think when we played them, we were nervous because we were the seventh seed and we were playing the second seed. They were a very good team.”
Faced with possible elimination the Indians knew they had to win their last two district matches. “After the Unionville game we just wanted to get to states so against Hatboro-Horsham we really kicked it in. We went to five (sets) with them. We lost the first two and we realized we’d have to get going and then we won the next three which was kind of insane.”
Once again Mary contributed greatly to the Indians attack, scoring 26 kills, 16 digs and I block. An exciting win over Boyertown in the final playback game assured Council Rock would achieve their ultimate season goal, a shot at states.
The Indians trek down the Keystone Yellow Brick Road, however, lasted only one game as they lost to the District three champion Hempfield 3 sets to 1. Despite the early exit Mary felt the whole season was a remarkable success. “It was absolutely unbelievable. I’m not shocked that we went to states. I felt we had the potential to do it. This is my third year at North and we had never made it to states. Seeing the high level of energy between the teams was crazy. I’ve never experienced it before.”
Mary will always attribute Council Rock’s success to the team chemistry shown by her teammates. This was one squad that certainly learned volleyball’s biggest lesson.